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Men's Basketball - Wed, Mar. 15, 2017 - posted by Seth Preuss
Josh Smith scored a game-high 18 points for HIU in the opening win
Josh Smith scored a game-high 18 points for HIU in the opening win
(25)Wiley College
(5)Hope International

KANSAS CITY, MO – No. 5 Hope International University has made it out of the first round for the fourth time in its five NAIA National Tournament appearances after a win over No. 25 Wiley (TX) to open their time at the 2017 Tournament. The Royals got a late scare from the Wildcats but were able to clutch up in the final seconds with a defensive stop and a free throw to ice the game.

The Wildcats climbed on the board first after an HIU turnover but the Royals pulled back in front with layups by Kyle Hoag, Deondre Bryant, and Liam Hunt. The Wildcats would pull even at 11-11 with 11 minutes left in the half, but HIU closed the half from point on a 23-9 run to 34-20 at the break. HIU shot 59% from the field in the first half and limited the Wildcats to just 27% shooting from the field and 25% from beyond the arc.

For as well as the Royals played in the first half, they just squeaked through the first round after being outscored by 12 points in the second. The Royals led by as many as 16 points four minutes into the second half, but Wiley whittled away at the lead as HIU continued to shoot miserably from the free throw line. The Royals finished below 40% from the charity stripe and were forced to live off their strong performance from the field.

With a minute left Wiley trailed the Royals by six and cut the lead to three after a triple with 43 seconds remaining. The Royals had chances to stretch the lead and finally got a free throw to fall from Charles Trotter with 3.9 seconds to go to ice the lead after Josh Smith and the Royals combined for a stop on the other end to save the game with 13 seconds remaining. A last-second heave from Wiley went wide left and at the horn HIU walked off the court victorious with a 61-59 final.

Smith finished the afternoon with a game-high 18 points for HIU after shooting 80% from the field. Hunt chipped in 12 and so did Trotter – the three combined to score 42 of the Royals' 61 points in the game and collectively supplied 22 of the Royals' 37 rebounds.

"In our experience, the hardest game is always the first one and that showed [this afternoon]," Coach Bill Czech said after the game. "We played a great first half, executed well and were locked in on defense, and then in the second half if got a little choppy – our guys hung together enough to win and at this point in the year it is 'survive and advance,' so we'll try to execute better next game but really, if we keep winning by two each game the win is what matters."

Smith also emphasized that the win was what really mattered when asked about the game, saying "it means a lot [to be here], being a senior and fighting for my guys. We got this win and now we have to go and refocus because this tournament is extremely hard and we need to do better at the free throw line."

HIU improves to 26-7 on the year and is now 4-1 all-time in the Opening Round of the NAIA Tournament. HIU advances to face Life (GA) on Friday in the Cramer Bracket at 7:00 AM PT – live video will be available for free again at naianetwork.com and the link will also be live at hiuroyals.com. Be sure to continue supporting your HIU Royals this postseason!

M - Basketball
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